Time: 121 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nominations for Best B&W Cinematography and Best Special Effects.
Jean Arthur is the odd man out in this high-flying adventure about a group of South American airmail pilots who will stop at nothing to make their company a success. Not even the love of a pretty dame. Grant plays the brusque owner/hotshot pilot of the fledgling airline, who refuses to fall in love with Arthur, despite her pretty face and caring personality. The rest of the motley crew is made up of desperate men who only care about one thing flying. Arthur tries to adopt their devil-may-care attitude in regards to the constant dangers they face while airborne, but she never quite succeeds, leading her to a major life decision. Live without the man she loves while he's alive or stand by his side while he risks his life in the sky. Grant doesn't make it easy for her. Flying is in his soul. She can stay if she wants, but he's never going to stop. There are several subplots involving betrayal, friendship, loyalty, self-sacrifice and lost love. Hawks weaves them all seamlessly into this intense drama about real men living on the edge.
Grant and Mitchell give friendship a good name as old flying buddies whose affection for each other runs deep. Mitchell's performance is the soul of the picture. His character of the aging pilot who'd rather die on a run than from old age will make you laugh and cry at his refusal to give up the life he loves. Grant makes the most of his role as a man of action. Most people remember him as a sophisticated ladies man, but he plays this part without a hitch. After all, despite the machismos, he's a big softy at heart. Arthur never seems comfortable with her role as the woman destined to tame the unfeeling flyer, ruining the chemistry between her and Grant. It works well enough, but could have been better. She's too uptight and silly to cause someone like Grant to fall so quickly. Sure, she's the only blond dame for thousands of miles, but that's not much of a reason. She's not a bad actress, just not right for the role. Hayworth shows a bit of the pizazz she'd end up bringing to the screen once she graduated to leading lady status. She's clearly nervous here, playing Grant's old flame, but thankfully her emotions work for the part.
The right mix of comedy and adventure keeps this film flying with wit, romance and tragedy. For the most part, the dialogue and effects still hold up. It's clear in some scenes that the planes are models, but that knowledge doesn't take away from the suspense of every takeoff and landing. Hawks makes sure you fall in love with these mugs, guaranteeing your interest from beginning to end. He's one of the few directors adept at both action and comedy, creating some of the most enduring films in either genre. ONLY ANGELS isn't one of his most well-known, but it is one of his better outings, delivering exactly what its tag line promises Each Day a Rendezvous With Peril...Each Night a Meeting With Romance!